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Dahmer Case Raises Complaints of Racism With PM-Dahmer Confession, Bjt

January 31, 1992 GMT

MILWAUKEE (AP) _ From the beginning, Jeffrey Dahmer’s murder case has been a flash point for complaints about racism in Milwaukee. So far, his trial has done nothing to change that.

Eleven of Dahmer’s 17 victims were black, and their families have long maintained that the criminal justice system was tilted against them.

On Thursday night, they issued perhaps their most comprehensive complaint yet, a two-page statement decrying ″the blatant examples of racism″ in the case.

They complained they have been treated with disrespect by the court system, and that Dahmer, who is white, has been treated with deference. They also revived old complaints that police failed to pursue Dahmer aggressively because many of his victims and accusers were black.

In his opening statement Thursday during Dahmer’s insanity trial, defense lawyer Gerald Boyle insisted his client was motivated by sexual attraction, not racism, when selecting victims.

″This was not racial,″ Boyle said. ″Mr. Dahmer’s obsession was to body form, not color.″

But many blacks, including some of the relatives of Dahmer’s victims, don’t believe that.

Jeannetta Robinson, director of a social service agency that has counseled victim’s families, said court officers have been disrespectful to blacks attending the trial.

She joined others in complaining about what she called ″the final atrocity,″ selection of a jury with one black member among 13 whites.

Because two jurors eventually will be dismissed as alternates, Dahmer could be tried by an all-white jury.

″One black juror 3/8″ Ms. Robinson said. ″The law says you should be tried by a jury of your peers. A jury of your peers 3/8 Who did this man go to bed with and eat up? ... There should be at least half blacks and gays on that jury.″

Milwaukee civil rights lawyer Arthur Heitzer said blacks tend to be underrepresented on juries because they are less likely to be registered voters and more likely to have moved to a new address.

In the statement issued after a weekly group counseling session, the victims’ families complained that Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Laurence Gram Jr. didn’t respond to their request that Ms. Robinson and three other counselors from her Career Youth Development agency be given passes to the trial.

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″Many of us in Milwaukee are beginning to ask ourselves if this is a blatant case of racism and insensitivity,″ the statement said. It further complained that Gram had approved a defense request to allow Dahmer to smoke in jail, despite regulations forbidding it.

Gram, reached at home by telephone, defended his actions.

″As far as seating, we’ve tried very hard to be as fair as possible,″ he said. ″There is no special seating for anyone.″

As for the smoking complaint, he said, ″that’s a distortion.″ Gram said he approved a request by Dahmer’s psychiatrists, psychologists and lawyers ″who said they could not perform their function unless they could offer him cigarettes.″

He would not comment on jury selection.

Several families last year sued the police department, saying racism by officers contributed to their relatives’ deaths. They cited officers’ failure to arrest Dahmer on May 27, when they returned a naked and bleeding Laotian boy to his apartment, despite the pleas of two black neighbors. Dahmer was arrested two months later, when a man escaped from his apartment and alerted police.

Two officers involved in the incident May 27 were fired.

If there was a note of conciliation amid the rancor, it was the families’ praise for District Attorney E. Michael McCann, who had been criticized earlier for refusing to give them details of the case. On Thursday morning, before the grisly testimony began, he did so.

Previously, ″it seemed like he was more against us than for us,″ said Stanley Miller, the uncle of victim Ernest Miller. ″Today, he made amends. It made a big difference to me.″